When it comes to eating healthier food, making the switch from eating mostly processed foods can be really hard to do. The processed foods are meant to taste so delicious that you can never give them up, stimulating your taste buds with tons of sugar, salt, and fat.
But with the right strategy, you can swap in whole, healthy ingredients that will taste so good you won’t even miss your old foods. Here are 15 of my favorite food swaps that helped me adjust to healthy eating.
Spaghetti Squash for White Noodles
A great way to get a veggie into your spaghetti and meatball dish is to substitute spaghetti noodles with spaghetti squash. All you have to do is cut your squash in half, scrape out the seeds, roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes, and the noodles will fall out when you scrape with a fork. While 100% whole wheat pasta is fine, if you’re trying to lose weight and need to eat fewer calories, spaghetti squash is the perfect sub in this dish.
Greek Yogurt for Sour Cream, Heavy Cream, Mayo
For you foodies out there, nonfat greek yogurt is a miracle. It’s relatively high in protein, low in calories, and tastes almost exactly like sour cream on top of tacos and chili. Mix in garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, parsley and celery seed to make a ranch dip that is to die for. Add honey and frozen fruit for a sweet treat that tastes like ice cream. You can even sub it for cream in most sauce recipes, like alfredo.
Spinach For Cheese
A great way to get your spinach in your meals is to sub it in where you once put cheese. While it obviously doesn’t have the same flavor, it does have a similar consistency as cheese when it’s wilted. Use it in omelets, pastas, lasagna, and I even grind mine up in a food processor and add it to burgers or meatballs.
Cauliflower For Pizza Crust, Rice, Mashed Potatoes
Cauliflower is so good for you, but alone can be hard to stomach when you’re used to processed foods. When I first started eating better, mashed cauliflower was one of my first tries, and I could not believe how much it reminded me of mashed potatoes.
I would even say now that I like it better. Since that time, I’ve discovered that you can also “rice” cauliflower (using a cheese grater or shredding blade on your food processor) and sub it for rice in everything from sweet and sour chicken to sushi.
I’ve even discovered how to make pizza crust and breadsticks (pictured) with it. YUM. Again, nothing wrong with brown rice but this is a good one for getting in more veggies and lowering calories for weight loss.
Banana For Sweetener, Ice Cream
Did you know that if you puree a banana and freeze it, it has the consistency of ice cream? You can also mash it and sub it for sugar and oil in recipes for cookies and other baked items. Personally, I will eat a banana as-is when I’m craving any sweets, and it always does the trick.
Eggplant For Lasagna Noodles
Eggplant, when sliced, can make a great substitute in lasagna for noodles. The texture is similar to lasagna noodles and the flavor is even better if you ask me.
Edamame For Chips
Instead of eating potato chips the next time you have a salty craving, try steaming some edamame with a little sprinkle of sea salt and chile powder. Edamame is high in complete protein but also has the healthy properties of a green vegetable.
Nuts and Seeds For Croutons
Next time you make a salad, instead of croutons, try a handful of pine nuts, walnuts, sliced almonds, or pumpkin seeds. These heart healthy fats will satisfy your crunch craving without adding empty calories.
Black Beans For Flour
Pureed black beans can be subbed out for white flour in baking recipes, like in the pictured black bean brownies. Black beans are high in protein, fiber, and taste compared to white flour which is calorie dense and nutrient sparse.
Brown Rice Cereal For Breading
Just a couple of weeks ago I happened on this recipe for chicken strips. My kids have hated every breading substitute I’ve tried in the past 5 years, but they gobbled up these chicken nuggets “breaded” in crushed brown rice cereal. Brilliant!
Quinoa For Pasta
Quinoa is a whole grain that is also relatively high in protein. When cooked up it is fluffy and nutty, an amazing sub in your pasta recipes. Here is how to make fluffy quinoa everytime.
Coconut Milk For Whipped Cream or Cream
Full fat coconut milk in a can has the same consistency as Cool Whip. Add a little honey, cinnamon, vanilla, etc. for flavor and serve! Way better than the processed stuff, which can contain trans fats.
Lettuce Leaves For Tortillas or Wraps
Using any sort of head lettuce (go for darker varieties for the best nutrition) as a wrap or in place of a tortilla is a superb way to get more greens in while cutting calories if you’re trying to lose weight. My favorite is to use a collard green leaf and wrap meat, veggies, and avocado up like a burrito.
Mashed Avocado For Mayo
Using mashed avocado in tuna, chicken, crab, or shrimp salad instead of mayo will give you more fiber, nutrients, and healthy fats than mayonnaise. In my opinion, it tastes way better too. Add a splash of lime juice for even more flavor.
Popcorn Kernels For Microwave Popcorn
Back in the olden days we used to air-pop our own popcorn. Now, popcorn comes in a microwaveable bag and is slathered in tons of butter, oils, and salt. We love to pop our own organic corn kernels over a campfire or stove, then add a touch of melted butter or olive oil and sea salt. It’s more fun than just pressing buttons on a microwave, anyways 🙂
Question: What are your favorite healthy food swaps? Did we miss any good ones? Share in the comments!